10k is often viewed as the runner’s ‘beginner’s Distance’ – completed before stepping up to the real deal of a half or full marathon. However, running a fast 10k is a genuine challenge. Here is a 6-week plan, which will take you to your perfect 10.

“I’d always recommend novice and intermediate runners getting a good, strong 10k under their belt before even considering stepping up in distance”

Although as mentioned getting round your first 10k is often seen just as a stepping stone to greater distances, however, I’d always recommend novice and intermediate runners getting a good, strong 10k under their belt before even considering stepping up in distance. Defining strong is always going to be slightly subjective, but the minimum requirements should be sub 55min for men and sub 60min for women, with the ideals being sub 50min and sub 55min respectively.

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If you look at tables in classic running coaching books such as, ‘Daniels’ Running Formula’, you’ll see that a 60min 10k ‘predicts’ – if all goes well and the athlete has trained appropriately – a 4hr 35min marathon. For a sub 4hr marathon, you really need to be running regular 52min 10ks. 10k shouldn’t be a steady state plod, it’s not about just getting round and it should be raced, not just run.

By taking your running to a stage where you can complete a strong 10k, you’ll discover and develop different running paces appropriate to distance, build a stronger engine and make the eventual transition to longer distances far easier. Our plan is ideal for a runner who’s already completed a 10k, but is keen to get quicker over the distance.

If at the end of the plan, you’re still outside of your 10k target, take an easier recovery week and work back through the plan. The sessions described are also ideal for a triathlete’s running sessions, if they’re preparing for an Olympic Distance event.

“Our plan is ideal for a runner who’s already completed a 10k, but is keen to get quicker over the distance”

Pacing

10k should be run at a pace that is just below your anaerobic threshold. This is best described as ‘sustainable discomfort’ – it’s actually the fastest pace you can sustain aerobically. You’re having to concentrate on keeping going and maintaining your pace, breathing is fairly heavy and you’d only be able to converse with short or single word answers.

There is little point in giving percentage heart rate zones of a theoretical maximum as these are notoriously inaccurate. If you’re wanting to train with heart rate you need to perform a test for your anaerobic threshold and then derive training zones from this figure.

*Easy (Heart rate zones 1-2): comfortable running pace where you’re able to maintain a full conversation. Don’t plod when running at this pace, concentrate on your form and keep your cadence high and foot strike light. You should finish this run feeling as though you could easily continue.

*Hard (Heart rate 3): this is the ‘sustainable discomfort’ (anaerobic threshold – this is the maximum pace you can maintain aerobically) pace that 10k is raced over. You’re working hard but can keep it going. No chatting, just short answers.

*Very Hard (Heart rate 4+): really pushing hard and probably only sustainable for 1-5min. No talking, just grunts and moans!

*Flat Out (Heart rate not applicable): Not far off a 100% sprint. Sustainable for 30-60 sec.

The Perfect 10 Plan

The plan is based around three running sessions per week – two higher intensity sessions and one long steady distance session. Allow at least 48 hours’ recovery between running sessions and do not perform any heavy leg work on days preceding the runs. Swimming and upper body training are ideal accompaniments.

10k running plan_2

Week 1

Run 1:

*10min easy paced warm-up, 6x40m strides with 30sec recovery (strides are progressively faster runs, with the focus on smooth running technique)
*3x1500m (hard) with 400m jog recovery
*10min jogging cool down, followed by stretch

Run 2:

*10min easy paced warm-up, 6X40m strides with 30sec recovery
*4x60sec (very hard), with 60sec jog recovery
*10min jogging cool down, followed by stretching

Run 3:

*50min (easy)
*Stretch

Week 2

Run 1:

*10min easy paced warm-up, 6x40m strides with 30sec recovery
*10min (hard)
*10min jog cool down, followed by stretching

Run 2:

*10min easy paced warm-up, 6×40 strides with 30sec recovery
*6x30sec (flat out) with 60sec walk recovery.
*10min jogging cool down, followed by stretching

Run 3:

*60min (easy)
*Stretch

Week 3

Run 1:

*10min easy paced warm-up, 6x40m strides with 30sec recovery
*15min (hard)
*10min jogging, cool down followed by stretch

Run 2:

*10min easy paced warm-up, 6X40m strides with 30sec recovery
*5x60sec (very hard to flat out), with 60sec jog recovery
*10min jogging cool down, followed by stretching

Run 3:

*70min (easy)
*Stretch

Week 4

Run 1:

*‘Out and Back’ Session
*30min ‘Out’ (easy)
*Turn round and run same course ‘Back’ (hard)
*10min jog cool down, followed by stretch

Run 2:

*10min easy paced warm-up 6x40m strides with 30sec recovery
*8X30sec (flat out), with 60sec walk recovery.
*10min jog cool down, followed by stretch

Run 3:

*80min (easy)
*Stretch

Week 5

Run 1:

*Out and Back Session
*35min ‘Out’ (easy) , Turn round and run same course ‘Back’ (hard)
*10min jog cool down followed by stretch

Run 2:

*Cruise Intervals
*4x5min (hard building to very hard) on a 5-10% gradient hill with jog return recoveries.
*10min jog cool down followed by stretch

Run 3:

*90min (easy)

Week 6 (taper week into 10k race)

Run 1:

*10min easy paced warm-up 6x40m strides, with 30sec recovery
*10min (hard)
*10min jog cool down followed by stretch

Run 2:

*10min easy paced warm-up, 6x40m strides with 30sec recovery
*10 X 20sec (very hard to flat out) 60sec jog recovery
*10min jog cool down. Followed by stretch

Run 3: Your 10k PB

Anaerobic Threshold Test Protocol

You need a flat running route without any obstructions (a running track is ideal) and a heart rate monitor that allows you to recall average heart rate.

Take a complete rest the day before the test and don’t eat for two hours before. Also make sure you’re well hydrated.

*Warm-up for 10min, building up your heart rate progressively.

*Complete 6x40m acceleration strides with 30sec recovery between each.

*Start the recorder of your heart rate monitor and run as hard as you sustainably can for 15min. Don’t go off too hard and try to pace your effort so that you cover as much distance as you can in the time. Stop the recorder on your heart rate monitor at the end of the 15 min.

*Cool down with 10min easy jogging.

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